IOWA CITY, Ia. This is not the first time Travis Perry entered uncharted waters.
Iowa football fans may wonder if the Urbandale alum is in over his head as a Big Ten linebacker, but his high school coach, Sam Anderson, saw what happens when Perry is thrown into a sink-or-swim situation.
“He was just one of those rare kids,” Anderson said, “who will do anything for the team, first and foremost.”
Perry, a 6-foot-3, 232-pound junior, joined the Hawkeyes in 2011 as a walk-on, and after a steady climb up the depth chart is spending this summer trying to solidify his place as a starter.
“When I came here as a younger guy, it’s tough,” Perry said. “Coming from high school to college is a whole new world.
“Being a junior now, it’s my turn to step up.”
Perry’s perseverance brought respect from Iowa teammates, but he remains mostly an unknown quantity to those outside the locker room.
Quinton Alston is a savvy senior who waited for his chance at middle linebacker. Reggie Spearman, the weak-side linebacker, showed flashes of his potential last season as a freshman.
But what are the Hawkeyes getting in Perry?
“He’s always going hard,” defensive end Drew Ott said. “He’s smart, knows the defense in and out.
“Brings a lot of confidence to our linebacking crew.”
Perry displayed those attributes early at Urbandale. He was inserted into the lineup as a freshman, against Des Moines Lincoln, and became a stabilizing force.
“Travis didn’t back down,” Anderson said. “Travis held his own. At that point, we knew he belonged at that level.
“We knew he was going to be pretty good.”
Perry contributed at a variety of positions, including defensive back, receiver and running back.
He even returned punts.
“For us, he was a great ambassador for the game of football,” Anderson said. “Just for the way to do it, play it right.”
Perry earned all-CIML honors as a sophomore and junior.
His chances of playing in college were hampered by a broken foot, costing him a good chunk of his final prep season.
“The initial reaction from the doctors was ‘You’re done for high school. There’s no way you’re coming back in time,’<TH>” said Tyler Perry, Travis’ brother. “But then he got a second opinion and the surgery option came up.”
Perry returned and was named all-state.
He received scholarship offers from Northern Iowa, Eastern Illinois and others.
But his mind was already made up.
“We got some chances when we were younger to go see Kinnick (Stadium), see the atmosphere there,” Tyler said. “We’ve been Hawkeye fans pretty much all our life and so it’s kind of cool to see Travis live out a dream and putting on the black and gold.”
For Tyler and Travis’ father, Russ, the dream comes with a dilemma.
Russ Perry, a pilot, is part of a National Guard unit that was deployed to Afghanistan earlier this month.
“It’s something that obviously we all knew was a possibility,” Tyler said. “It was almost just kind of a matter of time as to when he was going to go over there.
“If all goes well, he’ll be able to see or hear some of the games, whether it be TV or DVDs sent over to Afghanistan.”
The rest of Perry’s family will continue making regular trips to Iowa City.
Tyler serves as Urbandale’s offensive coordinator and plans to devote his weekends to both the J-Hawks and the Hawkeyes.
“It makes for long days. That’s for sure,” he said. “It turns into a long Friday night, and Saturday morning kind of turns into a blur.
“But it’s fun.”